The 2022 World Cup has kicked off and is in full swing. Over the last year, we have seen brands, teams, and athletes of all types embrace NFTs. And as we watch this year’s World Cup, we can see a playbook slowly emerging of how these types of sporting events can utilize NFTs and Web3. There are different types of stakeholders - sport governing bodies, athletes, and brands, each demonstrating their own enthusiasm for how NFTs complement their business.
At the end of the day, sports fans love to collect things, whether they are physical or digital.
Sport Governing Bodies
FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, is the global governing body for the sport of soccer. Founded in Paris in 1904, they are the main organizers behind the World Cup. For this year’s World Cup, FIFA has partnered with several different Web3 companies to create games and experiences. One of these is FIFA+ Collect, a new blockchain based digital collectible game that’s similar to NBA Top Shot.
FIFA+ Collect is a platform that hosts video highlights from previous World Cups that people can buy, sell, or trade in the form of packs. It’s essentially a digital trading card game for fans. This was built on the Algorand blockchain. The idea of collectible digital cards or video highlights is something that was first popularized by Dapper Labs’ NBA Top Shot, but has been very much expanding across other sports.
Unlike other sports leagues however, the World Cup does not have an ongoing schedule to maintain peoples’ interest. The World Cup only happens every four years. So perhaps it’s in the best interests of FIFA to keep FIFA+Collect alive and emphasize the platform at every World Cup. That might create an incentive for someone who buys an NFT this year to hold onto it for the next World Cup in 2026.
While FIFA+ Collect appears to be the World Cup’s flagship project, FIFA has also partnered with several other Web3 companies to create different games. One example is the Upland Metaverse, which was created in partnership with the company Uplandme. The Upland Metaverse features virtual worlds that mimic real life cities and stadiums, and allow people to create digital collections of things like country crests.
We’ve seen many athletes and sports teams launch their own NFT projects. Some of the most notable examples are the digital collectible NFT projects launched by NBA teams, the recent Manchester United NFT drop, and athlete-led NFT platforms like Autograph, which includes deep involvement from Tom Brady, Naomi Osaka, and Tiger Woods.
In the world of soccer, the two biggest athletes are Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Widely regarded as the two best players in the world, they are the respective captains of Portugal and Argentina.
Ronaldo has just surpassed over 500 Million followers on Instagram, making him the most followed person on social media. Prominently displayed on his Instagram account is a promotional message for his NFT collection with crypto exchange Binance, with whom Ronaldo has signed an exclusive, multi-year partnership. This latest NFT collection includes 6,645 NFTs designated between four different levels of rarity. Based on the NFT you own, you are eligible to receive perks including a personal message from Ronaldo, autographed merchandise, gift boxes, and access to future NFT drops.
Lionel Messi has similar projects. Last year, Messi launched an NFT collection called the “Messiverse,” a set of commemorative digital artwork. For the World Cup, Messi is working with the same team behind the Messiverse, Web3 studio Ethereal Labs and NFT marketplace Ethernity. This new collection is called the Messi Time Machine Collection, commemorating moments throughout his career. Both Ronaldo and Messi are pushing their own NFT collections to their global audience of World Cup fans.
As with any major sporting event, large brands want to be involved - whether through directly sponsoring an event or creating commercial activations to take place alongside the event.
Adidas released a commercial leading up to the World Cup that featured Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema, Son Heung-min, and Stormzy. The commercial also featured a Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT owned by Adidas. This NFT, BAYC #8774 Indigo Hertz was purchased for around $156,000 by Adidas last year. A recent Nike World Cup commercial featured a CloneX, one of the NFTs created by RTFKT, the NFT brand that Nike acquired last year.
Visa has partnered with Crypto.com on an NFT collection called Masters of Movement, a series of NFT digital artwork inspired by famous soccer players. By purchasing one of the NFTs, you could also win signed merchandise from each of the players and the overall NFT proceeds go to a UK charity called Street Child United.
While the Qatar World Cup has had slightly stricter alcohol policies when compared to previous World Cups, beer brand Budweiser is still a massive global advertiser who sees the World Cup as a major priority for their marketing strategy. Budweiser has launched a new NFT collection described as ‘scoreboard NFTs’ that represent your fandom towards a particular country and that update in real-time based on your team’s performance. The NFTs present holders with an animated scoreboard that tracks your team’s statistics. Each mint of a Budverse NFT costs $100 and includes a physical merch pack, including a scarf, a color changing Budweiser aluminum cup and a trading card. Holders are also eligible to enter into a sweepstakes for a chance to win a VIP trip to the tournament.
Collectibles are Collectibles
At the 1994 World Cup, you could buy different commemorative t-shirts, artwork, and figurines that combined teams, players, and brands. At the 2022 World Cup, pretty much the same concept applies. The difference is that our lives are now more digital, and the products we buy have subsequently become more digital. What remains true is the fact that people like to buy and collect cultural artifacts that are meaningful to them, whether digital collectibles or physical collectibles.
Sports and entertainment is an incredible on-ramp to get people interested in NFTs. It’s relatively easy for a sports fan to understand why they would be buying a digital collectible when they are already familiar with the concepts of sports memorabilia or sports cards. Whether it’s the next Olympics, Super Bowl, or Tour De France, a NFT/digital asset playbook is starting to emerge. Whether it’s creating a league, creating a NBA Top Shot-esque digital trading card game or another sport’s equivalent of Ronaldo creating an NFT project to get closer to fans, or a major advertiser creating an interactive digital experience alongside a tournament, we will start seeing a new world of sports and Web3.